Utah says that it is 5000 miles from the UK. And that it"s 5000% worth it. But not that many people from Britain or Ireland holiday there. Why should we?
Ask people what they know of Utah and its capital, Salt Lake City and they might recall the winter Olympics were held there a while ago. In fact, that was ten years ago and, this year, there are celebrations of that fact because the state tourist board says the Olympics made Utah a holiday destination internationally. It brought skiers to sample the fourteen resorts that the state has. And the snow which is claimed to be the “Greatest Snow on Earth.” Last year some 500 inches of the white stuff fell on Utah resorts and one, Deer Valley Resort, is regularly voted best ski resort by readers of ski magazines.
But Utah isn’t just a winter destination. It is lucky enough to be all-round destination but because it has no direct flights to the UK or Ireland, we probably don’t consider it. Outside of winter, it is a big outdoor destination for Americans because, as one US publication put it, it is almost in the middle of the Rockies. It has 43 state parks alone so it appeals to wildlife enthusiasts. But sportsmen go there for the fishing, kayaking, rafting and hunting. Hikers and walkers go trekking through the forests and parks.
Sandwiched between the Rockies in the north of the state and the canyons of the south, there is a desert landscape- the sort you see in Westerns. Part of the Mojave Desert is in the state. Here, prehistoric finds have been made and for dinosaur hunters, Utah is a big draw. In Salt Lake City this year, the new Utah Museum of Natural History opened last November and contains the world’s biggest dinosaur collection. In the east of the state towards the Colorado border is the Dinosaur National Monument, (it’s in Colorado as well as Utah) a 200,000 acre national park recognised almost a hundred years ago as one of the most important national parks. The place where the discovery began, the Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry, only reopened to the public at the end of last year. This is a place where you’ll need a whole day to explore the area.
As well as the outdoor attractions then, it is the culture of the people that is another major attraction. The petroglyphs or rock carvings to be seen at the Dinosaur National Monument, probably come from Native Americans and it is that heritage that people come to see. Utah is named after the Ute Indians and other prominent groups include the Navajo and Shoshone who have inhabited the area for over a thousand years. In Salt Lake City there is evidence of inhabitants stretching back 11,000 years.
Another strand of heritage is the British/Irish connection. Over 40% of the population of the state has a background with our countries. But it was the arrival of Brigham Young and the Mormons in the middle of the nineteenth century that led to this. Welsh Mormons were encouraged to look for the new Zion and one source claims 20% of Utah residents are of a Welsh background.
So for the British and Irish visitor there is a stong heritage link to encourage a trip. And whilst you’re there the natural country with its deserts, mountains, rivers and appeal for outdoor pursuits should do the rest and make you a Utah convert.